INDIANAPOLIS — Mayor Joe Hogsett said bars and nightclubs can reopen with limited capacity starting on Tuesday as Marion County shows signs of improvement during the pandemic.
“I am heartened this morning to report based on encouraging data, beginning next Tuesday, bars and nightclubs will be able to reopen at 25% indoors with up to 50% capacity utilizing outdoor seating,” he said during a Thursday news conference.
Hogsett said the bars and nightclubs can only offer table seating. Customers must be seated at tables capable of supporting no more than six people. Bar seating will remain closed.
Those businesses must close at 12 a.m. Three violations will lead to a closure for a minimum of 30 days, according to Dr. Virginia Caine with the Marion County Public Health Department.
Marion County’s mask mandate will remain in place indefinitely.
Restaurants can open at 75% outdoor dining with social distancing and table service allowed in bar areas.
Nightclubs are to follow the same rules as bars, although dancing and live entertainment are not allowed.
Hogsett said Caine would go “full Footloose” on any establishments that turn into dance clubs and order them closed.
The reopening will last as long as the public health orders are taken seriously and people follow mask mandates and social distancing protocols, both Hogsett and Caine emphasized.
In addition, main road closures for the “Dine Out” program (Mass Ave, Broad Ripple Avenue) will end after Labor Day. The mayor is hoping to announce a more permanent solution for expanded outdoor dining and is working with several agencies to do so.
“I have been personally impressed with the usage of these temporary spaces,” he said.
Hogsett said there is no way to feasibly close streets permanently given its contract on parking meters with Park Indy. It would cost tens of millions of dollars before the city even enters the design phase, he said.
In terms of schools, Marion County rules are different from the state’s guidelines. Caine said Marion County public health orders supersede state rules and schools need to follow guidelines from the Marion County Public Health Department.
Caine added that Marion County sports teams that are playing out of the county must wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines–just as they would if there were in Marion County. That also includes fans and the public going to the games. Failing to follow those rules could result in shutting down sports at that particular school, she said.
Caine believes Marion County’s numbers are trending in the right direction. If cases increase, then loosened restrictions could be reined in, she cautioned.
She believes the mask mandate, social distancing and certain business restrictions have helped Indianapolis and Marion County go in the right direction.
“We need your help desperately to follow the rules,” she said.
According to county data, emergency department visits have been basically flat, although there has been a small increase since Aug. 24. Hospital admissions for COVID-19 patients have decreased significantly. Caine pointed out that the demographics are changing, with younger people contracting the coronavirus. They tend to be healthier and recover more quickly.
COVID-19 had previously been most prevalent in older adults. The trend involving younger people started in May and became more noticeable in June, July and August.
There has also been “a substantial decrease” in deaths from COVID-19 in Marion County.
Caine discussed surrounding counties, saying they were mostly flat in terms of cases. Hamilton County, on the other hand, showed an increase while Shelby County showed a significant decrease.
Statewide, while Indiana was on an upward trend, the data showed it looked like the state was heading down again, Caine said.
Caine believes the county will be “very well prepared” for the distribution of a vaccine if it becomes available in the fall.